August 8, 2016: the emergency room doctor at Marin General placed in my feverish little hands a sheet of paper that said: No sex. No alcohol. Side effects of depression, anxiety, irritability, and suicidal thoughts. These are not exactly the words you want to hear the day before you are to be married.
It was the morning before my wedding to Chuan and I woke with a high fever. I lay in bed thinking, please god, don’t let me be sick…this is the worst possible time to be sick. This can’t be happening but it was. I wasn’t afraid to get married. This couldn’t be pre-wedding jitters, no, something is really wrong. Fever chills began working up my body in waves like a death rattle. My teeth chattered, my chest tightened and I pulled up the covers to stay warm in Jean’s guest room. Chuan was downstairs with Jean planning our day of cooking for the wedding reception. I couldn’t calm the shakes which had now become violent when the nausea kicked in. I stumbled downstairs into the kitchen crying and heaved right into the sink. Chuan and Jean were shocked and tried to comfort me. I felt Chuan’s arms wrap around me as I was heaving something yellow down the drain. I had never felt this sick in my life.
Between the dry heaves and shaking, Chuan stuck a thermometer in my mouth and it came out at 103. I didn’t really have any other symptoms of a flu or infection. I feared it was appendicitis as I had some minor, intermittent cramps in my lower abdomen. Jean said it was time to take me to the hospital. We called Blue Cross Blue Shield and spoke to a nurse who concurred we needed to get to the hospital right away. We fumbled through customer support to see if a visit to the emergency room would be covered — as one does only in America. It was and so we rushed out the door and then got stuck in bumper-to-bumper, morning rush hour traffic.
After the usual questions at triage, the nurses guessed it was appendicitis and so I was admitted to an ER room and thus began the questions, the poking, prodding, sampling and waiting. There was discussion about a CT scan to determine if it was indeed appendicitis but the doctor ruled it out after probing my painless belly. Then they tested my urine and voila! Infection was present. So they quickly put me on levofloxacin and suggested that this was a probably an acute prostate-related urinary tract infection…not an STI. Apparently women are more susceptible to this than men, but in men with prostate issues, it is indeed a problem. Four and a half hours after arriving, I was released on meds, whimpering about the hair they ripped off my arm with my IV.
So with a little side trip to the emergency room down a path of chastity, sobriety, and suicidal ideation, it was off to the altar to see about getting married after all.
Chuan and Jean nursed me back to health and we made it to San Francisco City Hall by 10am on the 9th of August, residual fever and all. And married we are. It happened. It had to happen. I was not going to take no for an answer. Nor was Chuan.
If you’ve never been to City Hall in San Francisco, it is a spectacular example of 1915 Beaux-Arts architecture. As you push the gilded doors open, you enter what appears to be an inside-out wedding cake. It’s the perfect setting for a marriage complete with Chinese tourists and selfie sticks. (They took special delight in seeing a same sex, Caucasian-Asian, age-divergent marriage taking place atop the stairs beneath the skylit rotunda.)
We made our way to the back corner of the hall where we registered with the city and then met with the woman who would be our officiant to perform the ceremony. She seemed incompetent and bumbling with a very thick accent which I think was a Filipino accent.
While they processed our paperwork, the guests were still arriving and looking radiant. Simon, Jean, Scott, Tom, Lawrence, Kristel and January all came to bear witness to the occasion and then we waited for the Justice of the Peace at the top of the stairs under the rotunda. She arrived and behold…there she was…all 3 1/2 feet of be-gowned and be-wigged justicia…Mrs. Yoda, our guide through the gates of holy matrimony! She started looking around and calling, “David…David?” I got all panicky and my fever surged before I realized that the couple to be wed before us also had a David in their party.
Lawrence sang us a beautiful song which wonderfully calmed our nerves, quieted my fever, and drew the attention of tourists. Finally our time came and it was time to step up to the top of the stairs and get married in full view of the bronze bust of Harvey Milk who was assassinated 38 years before, just steps away from that very spot.
Chuan and I stood facing each other in front of the Justice and she began her ceremony. At least I saw her mouth moving and her admiring eyes reading as she looked each of us in the eye, but I couldn’t hear anything. Mrs. Yoda was in fact Justice Whisperer. She was extremely soft-spoken and with the ambient sound of the rotunda’s live acoustics I simply had to go on memory of what she was going to say from having seen this on YouTube previously. We each leaned in closer and closer and the nearer we drew, the fainter her voice became.
No matter, we got the point and we exchanged the rings and said our vows. The hardest part was not to just burst out in tears about the whole thing. The text she was reading (what we could hear of it) was very beautifully written and said nothing about god, but everything about the power of love and the honor of marriage. When she got to the part about loving each other in sickness and in health I felt the relevancy of those words. The whole ceremony was very emotional for me especially having just felt so close to death the day before.
And so on the 2nd year anniversary of having met Chuan in Kuala Lumpur, we said, “I do,” and we did it. What an adventure it has been halfway around the world, over land and sea, continents and cultures, to land us here in the heart of gay America.
After the ceremony we placed flower leis that my cousin Dale from Connecticut sent. Chuan read some talking point from his iPhone, half laughing and half crying, and I stumbled in a still fevered way through some proclamations of love for Chuan. It would have been different had we not spent the day before in the hospital but, alright, sometimes life intervenes. Chuan seemed genuinely touched and moved by the whole experience in spite of all the stress and drama we had been through in the past 36 hours.
After the ceremony, we give a big kiss of gratitude to Harvey Milk whose face was glowing with the attention. San Francisco’s City Hall has a rich history of the struggle for gay rights in America and in a way is the birthplace of same sex marriage. So it seemed like a fitting place to tie the knot. It was also a very public place to get married with tourists circling around snapping pictures. I imagine that Wechat was buzzing that morning with pictures being sent back to mainland China of the 2 dudes getting married, kissing, and crying. They heard about this and now they got to see it in person.
You can watch the wedding and the reception on this video, but of course, you won’t be able to hear much from Justice Whisperer. Put in some earphones and maybe you can hear her sweet voice and words…
The reception afterward was held at Kristel & Lawrence’s house…my friends who just got engaged the week before. So they still had all the Congrats balloons and rented champagne flutes at the house — so it all worked out perfectly. Huge thanks to them for hosting the party; to Tom for the flower bouquets and for shooting video; to Jean for bearing the rings and for the fabulous vanilla and blackberry layer cake and getting us to the “church on time” (and me to the ER on time); to cousin Dale for the orchid leis; to Scott for coming the farthest and for being my oldest friend; to lovely January for the benediction that was delivered more in spirit than in words (my bad); to adorable Lawrence for learning “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine” and singing it at City Hall!; to Simon for picking up the cake and for all the pre-wedding week dramas that put me in the hospital (just kidding); and to my parents for loving me and supporting me since I came out to them 34 years ago. Thanks to all those who wanted to be with us but couldn’t. Thank you to Angela and Jeff in Tucson for an amazing Tucson reception (pictures coming soon)! And thank you to all those who sent gifts and greetings from around the world and donations to help with Chuan’s legal fees for immigration…all so very much appreciated and needed as we set forth down that path.
Finally, the biggest thanks goes to my new husband, Chuan, who has loved me from day three, who held my vomit bucket and my hand in the hospital thinking the marriage was off. He came all this way around the world to be with me in the strange new world, to step up to the rotunda and commit to a lifetime of being together. In Chuan’s words the next morning, “Hubby, we got married. Shit!” I think he meant, “holy cow.”
I feel a book coming on.
Next stop: Immigration.
Jean, Lawrence, Scott
Chuan hand folded dozens of origami cranes as party favors given out with starry crowns made by Jean and bling rings.
The reception at Lawrence & Kristel’s in San Francisco.
Jean in Kristel’s hat
WIth Lawrence afterward.